In an age when even the Sunday Times can celebrate “30 Years of Punk” with a cover-mount CD, it’s easy to forget what a deafening impact the movement must have had in 1977. At its heart stood Sid Vicious, the Sex Pistols bassist
who was described by Malcolm McLaren as “the most controversial icon of his generation”.
Alan Parker’s rambling biography takes us through the transformation of a callow Simon Ritchie into the Sid Vicious of legend. His most touching passages dwell upon the ordinariness of Sid’s origins: we see him reading Spiderman comics and being caught drying his Vaseline’d hair in the oven. Embarrassed, he insists: “No mum, it works, honest!”
The narration inevitably shifts to Sid’s self-destruction and its attendant myths. Parker promises to prove that Sid’s death in 1979, following his arrest for the murder of his girlfriend Nancy Spungen, was “neither suicide nor accident”. His account is vivid, but falls short of such an audacious claim.
It’s unfortunate, then, that the book splutters to a close with a redundant chapter on Parker’s own punk credentials. Do we really need to know that he’d “eat Chinese food” with Sid’s mother? Like Sid himself, Parker lets self-indulgence drag down the promise of bigger and better things.